Toronto FC was back in training on Tuesday ahead of its visit to D.C. United this weekend.
Here are some news and notes from today’s practice.
AN ILL-TIMED ALL-STAR BREAK
Fresh off a 4-0 win over New York City FC on the weekend, captain Michael Bradley, and top scorers Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, are off to Chicago for Wednesday’s all-star game where the league’s best will take on Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Their absence from most of this week’s training sessions will disrupt coach Greg Vanney’s preparations for Saturday’s game – and this after Bradley, Altidore and Justin Morrow just returned from CONCACAF Gold Cup duty.
The timing of the all-star game isn’t ideal, but Vanney just has to deal with it.
“It definitely disrupts the continuity of what we’re trying to do in terms of progressing to the match. But that seems to have been the norm lately, that’s the way it is in the summer months. We’re looking forward to getting all of that behind us, and trying to get some normal training weeks in,” Vanney said.
“But the guys have earned [the all-star call-up], it’s a part of the league, and it’s part of being a good player and being recognized for that. That’s great.”
VANNEY’S ALL-STAR MEMORIES
While at FC Dallas, Vanney played in the 2005 MLS All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. TFC’s coach served as MLS captain on that day as the league’s best earned a 4-1 win over Premier League club Fulham.
“I played the whole match, so it was a fun experience. … It was one of the first games where we played an [international] opponent, so the game had just a little bit of a different feel of competition. Sometimes when you play the natural East versus West, players don’t defend and it becomes a little bit of show,” Vanney recalled.
Now that he’s a coach, Vanney has a vastly different view of the all-star game, especially when he has three key players who run the risk of getting injured while playing against Real Madrid.
“It’s a spectacle for the league. It’s something that all sports leagues in North America do, so you understand it … but for all of us, especially just coming out of the Gold Cup, it’s disruptive to lose guys when you’re trying to get back in the swing of things,” Vanney said.
WHAT’S UP WITH HASLER?
Nicolas Hasler has yet to make an appearance for TFC since signing as a free agent on July 13. In fact, the Liechtenstein international hasn’t even dressed for any of the three games that the Reds have played since his arrival in Toronto.
Hasler was brought in, to a certain extent, to fill the void left by Steven Beitashour, who remains out after undergoing pancreas surgery. And yet, Vanney hasn’t seen fit to use the former FC Vaduz player.
It raises the obvious question: What’s going on? Why sign Hasler and then not use him?
Vanney explained that some of the issue is that he wanted to work players who were either away on national team duty, coming off injuries or who hadn’t seen much playing much into his team.
“Part of it is getting him fit, getting him sharp, getting him to understand tactically what we’re trying to do. It’s identifying exactly where he’s going to fit in the best for us. We know he’s a player who can play multiple positions,” Vanney stated.
“From a fitness standpoint he’s there. From an understanding standpoint he’s getting there quickly, [but] it’s just a tough team to break into. A lot of guys have been here and established themselves. His time is coming because ultimately we want to see what he brings to this team before we get into this final stretch.”
Defender Oyvind Alseth suffered a laceration to his foot during the win over NYCFC and had to be subbed out in the 15th minute. The good news is that the Norwegian didn’t suffer any tendon damage. But Vanney confirmed Alseth will be out for a week, which rules him out for Saturday’s game against D.C United.
“It’s just a matter of healing. We’ll see after a week … he has to get the swelling to go down so he can get his foot into a shoe. Other than that, it’s just some healing time,” Vanney said.
Midfielder Benoit Cheyrou also remains out with a long-term injury.
LOOKING AHEAD TO D.C.
Saturday’s match at RFK Stadium is the final meeting of the season between Toronto and D.C. The Reds earned a 2-0 win at home on June 17.
While TFC (12-3-7, 43 points) is riding high in first place in MLS, D.C. ranks dead last in the league with an 5-14-3 record and 18 points. D.C. is coming off a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, and only has one win in its previous five outings.
On paper, it’s an easy game for the Reds. But those matches can sometimes be the most dangerous, Vanney warned.
“They are a stingy [defensive] team. In some ways, they are a desperate team. I know [D.C. coach Ben Olsen] has a ton of pride, and their players have a ton of pride. I’m certain they’re not giving up on the season, they’re at home in front of a crowd that has a lot of pride, too. It’s an organization that has won a lot over the years,” Vanney said.
“They have players who can make things happen. [Luciano] Acosta, [Nick] DeLeon, Lloyd Sam. They have guys who if you’re not at your best, they can hurt you.”